Dr. Matthew Posner knows what it’s like to be knocked off the top of his game. The WellSpan orthopedic surgeon now helps his patients get back on top of theirs.
Prior to performing complex knee surgeries, Dr. Posner, a 26-year U.S. Army veteran, strategically led a 72-ton, M1A1 main battle tank into combat exercises overseas.
In the summer of 2000, he sustained a knee injury during a training exercise.
“I knew it was really bad,” recalled the retired Army colonel and one of the nearly 800 WellSpan team members who are former or current members of the U.S. armed forces. “I wanted to be a frontline type of soldier, I wanted to move up the ranks and my injury put those aspirations in jeopardy.”
Following multiple knee surgeries, he decided to leave the battlefield so he could enroll in medical school and become an Army physician.
Since then, Dr. Posner has performed thousands of surgeries and dedicated his career to studying the prevention of sports injuries, surgically managing sports injuries, and returning soldiers to duty after sustaining injuries.
“Any injury can be a life-changing event, but it didn’t put me on the sidelines for life and has served as a life experience to inspire me as a surgeon,” Dr. Posner explained.
This was yet another inspiration to start a different mission for Dr. Posner – a career in medicine.
Dr. Posner, one of seven children and the son of the late Dr. Michael Posner, an Army veteran and well-known WellSpan OB-GYN in Gettysburg, had his sights set on a career in the military since he was in junior high. He graduated from the U.S. Military Academy at West Point with a degree in mechanical engineering in 1994 and chose to dedicate the first part of his active duty to being a tank commander.
He had several deployments to Afghanistan and other parts of the Middle East and Asia in support of various military operations including Operation Enduring Freedom.
Not long after completing an assignment as an Armor platoon leader in the Demilitarized Zone, which separates North and South Korea, Posner tore his anterior cruciate ligament in his knee during a training in Fort Knox, Kentucky.
“I was never going to return to the same level,” said Posner, who played hockey and lacrosse in high school and continued to compete in recreational leagues during college.
“As the surgeons who eventually became my mentors discussed the kinds of surgeries they were going to do on my knee, it caught my attention,” he says, “and I started feeling like my engineering background could complement a future in sports medicine.”
At the age of 31, he went back to school and earned medical degrees from Loyola University of Chicago and Penn State College of Medicine and completed his orthopedic residency. In the latter part of his military career, Dr. Posner was assigned to Army posts throughout the country and overseas, where he utilized his advanced orthopedic sports medicine skills in the treatment of military personnel throughout the Department of Defense. His last assignment in the Army was at West Point, where he served as Chief of Orthopedic Surgery.
Though it wasn’t his initial plan, Dr. Posner followed in the footsteps of his father, who also served as an Army physician.
“I guess it was kind of a perfect fit as I grew up around medicine and the military with my dad,” he said of his father, who was affectionately called “Doc” by his friends and passed away in 2016. “Still to this day, when someone says Dr. Posner, I think of that being my dad.”
In 26 years of service, the former tank commander earned dozens of medals and ribbons for service, including the Bronze Star medal for service in Afghanistan, the Legion of Merit and A-designator for the highest level of professional achievement in the U.S. Army Medical Corps.
In July, the Gettysburg native brought his expertise, including treating complex knee and shoulder sports injuries, to the WellSpan Sports Medicine team and returned to his roots in South Central Pennsylvania with his wife Mary, who grew up in York, and their five children. “I’ve made it my mission in life as an orthopedic surgeon to study injuries like I had, and to help others,” Dr. Posner said.
Dustin Haluska is a senior communications specialist at WellSpan.